What in Your Opinion should be the Way Forward for Urban Development?
The population of Karachi has expanded exponentially over the years. Bearing in mind that rural development has been kept at negligence by governments, coupled with natural and man-made disasters, people have moved from rural to the urban set up for employment purposes. Punjab experiences the same influx, but this once fertile land has been facing water shortage after signing Indus Water Treaty with India. These are just two examples. Other larger cities of Pakistan have experienced urban migration, leading to burdening of limited resources in these city centres.
In the case of Karachi, the population has gone up to 20 million with no increase in land and natural resources. Karachi’s case is surprising in the sense that the city just doesn’t house 20 million but is also a safe haven for poor people, providing living on no cost in katchi abadis or slums, thriving industrial set up for jobs, thriving trade and commerce through markets and warm water sea-port. Hence, all in all, Karachi caters to every segment of the Pakistani society which is why we would see almost every ethnicity living in here.
The problem which arises due to rapid migration and urbanization is that resources are exploited, a certain strata of society gets to control it whereas the poor inhabitants living in slums are expelled from their houses without prior notification in the name of ‘development’.
Builders taking advantage of high pricing of land are building unsustainable, cheap high rise buildings which are not just not environmental friendly but are also prone to being liquefied in the case of any natural calamity. Absence of low cost housing schemes and cheap transportation within the city centre as well as in city’s suburbs has added fuel to the fire by promoting high-density squatter settlements.
The way forward for a sustainable long term development plan for our urban areas is to build and promote livelihood, sustenance in rural level to counter and limit rural-urban migration. Once that is achieved, low cost housing schemes and interest-free loans for such housing should be provided to the lower socio-economic strata within the city centre to counter informal and illegal slums. This can be achieved only if planning and implementation happens together. The already existing informal settlements should be regularized so that they could be worked upon to rebuild their structures for long-term goals. Housing and all other built-environment should undergo environmental impact assessments (EIAs) or follow environmental standards to ensure that the structure is environmental-sensitive and inclusive for the society. Moreover, transportation structure, overhead bridges, walking pavements, and mobility of women and disabled people have to be taken care of. This can only be achieved if government would take its own responsibility and stop privatizing every sector.
The same goes with sewerage disposal and waste-treatment. Carrying out census, mapping, using advanced scientific technology, media campaigns and a genuine serious attitude on part of the government is essential if it wants to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in the long run. We have failed to implement a single MDG and if sustainability is not taken into consideration-taking into account economic, social and environmental losses, then we would not be able to progress as a nation.
Zehra Shallwani is student of BS in Social Sciences, SZABIST. She contributed her blog post through a facebook competition.
* Views expressed in this blog post may not be those of WWF.